Real Sociedad is having a dream run in La Liga as they sit in third place with 26 points from 14 games. One of the architects behind this success is the 26-year-old midfielder, Mikel Merino. The Spanish international is having an impressive season with La Real, with six assists to his name. He has also scored the only goal in the game against Mallorca, handing his team another victory. With some Premier League clubs interested in signing the midfielder, we examine some of his stats to gain a better understanding of his outstanding season.
Mikel Merino has played 14 games for Real Sociedad this season, starting 13 of them and coming off the bench in one match. He has six assists and one goal to his name in La Liga and has scored once in the Copa Del Rey as well. The above visual shows his percentile rank compared to other left-central midfielders in La Liga. As the pizza chart suggests, he has good stats in all departments. He has good attacking stats and is ranked in the top 82.6 percentile for shots and entries into the opposition’s penalty area per game. We can also observe from the chart that he is ranked in the top 84 percentile for dangerous passes per game. Another area of Merino that cannot be overlooked under any circumstance is his defensive game. He is ranked in the top 95.6 percentile for aerial duels per game and the top 86.9 percentile for positioning. The 26-year-old has decent stats for defensive duels as well and is ranked in the top 65.2 percentile, which is above average.
Mikel Merino is a formidable presence in the midfield for Real Sociedad and guards their midfield like no other. He is a very intelligent footballer who is difficult to beat. Merino is strong and makes around 6.08 defensive duels per game, winning 62.3% of them. Moreover, he is dominant in the air and averages 6.73 aerial duels per game with a 56.3% success rate. He also collects the second ball well and wins around 3.59 loose balls per game. In addition, he also makes 5.03 interceptions per game. With a midfielder who is so strong defensively, the opposition finds it hard to build attacks against Real Sociedad.
Mikel Merino has good passing stats and is ranked in the top 84 percentile for dangerous passes per game. He has six assists and is currently the player with the most assists in La Liga this season. The 26-year-old midfielder attempts an average of 46 passes per game and completes 81.5% of them. He also plays around 8.67 passes into the final third per game, with 71.3% of them finding their target. Apart from these passes, Merino also manages to find the right pass after recovering possession in the midfield. His assists come from his passing in the final third, and he makes an average of 2.44 passes into the penalty box with 51% accuracy. His presence and passing range are crucial in the Sociedad midfield.
Another way in which Merino contributes both to attack and defence is through his high regains. He positions himself in the midfield in such a way that he can recover the ball and make the appropriate passes. Of these high regains, 31 are counter-pressing recoveries, and six are dangerous recoveries. Merino also makes around 9.17 recoveries per game, with 42.9% of them in the attacking half. These regain are crucial in their transition from defence to attack, and Merino plays a central role in that.
Compared to last season, his pressing and recoveries have seen an improvement this season. The above visual shows the high regains made by Mikel Merino last season. He made 67 counter-pressing recoveries and 11 dangerous recoveries. Merino made an average of 4.94 interceptions and 8.27 recoveries per game last season. All these figures have gone up and therefore have helped Real Sociedad in their climb to the third position in La Liga.
Did Mikel Merino deserve the Spanish WC squad call?
The above visual compares the radars of Mikel Merino and Koke from Atletico Madrid. We can observe from the visual that the former outperforms the latter in almost every department. While Luis Enrique only selects players who can play his style of football, Mikel Merino’s inclusion in the squad would have helped Spain much more than an out-of-form Koke. Merino has better stats than Koke in almost every metric other than passes per 90 minutes, and his defensive skills and his ability to recover the ball and find the right pass would have helped Spain go further in the World Cup.
Mikel Merino is having an impressive season with Real Sociedad. With six assists to his name, he sits at the top of the assists list in La Liga. The 26-year-old has impressed everyone, especially the former Villarreal coach Unai Emery, who is now coaching Aston Villa. Rumors suggest that Emery wants Merino to play for him at Aston Villa. Whether Merino will make a return to the Premier League or not is unclear at the moment. But whatever happens in the future, his contribution will remain important for Real Sociedad this season.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine